Coincidentally, the age when someone is most likely to develop a substance use disorder–between 18 and 25–is also the age when they are most actively dating. Addiction and treatment tend to disrupt all kinds of relationships, especially romantic ones, and a lot of people starting out in recovery want to know when they can start dating again. Most experts advise people to wait until they have a year of solid recovery before they resume dating. Here’s why.
Focus on Recovery for a While
Dating in early recovery can be problematic, as it often creates a distraction from the work necessary to create a strong foundation in your recovery. There’s a lot to addiction treatment and recovery, especially early on. You have to make a lot of life changes in a relatively short period of time. Romantic relationships often interfere with this process, which is one reason why many treatment programs prefer to treat men and women separately, often specializing in the treatment of one or the other.
After you leave treatment, you will probably have a lot to do in terms of finding somewhere to live, finding work, establishing a healthy recovery routine, making amends, straightening out your financial situation, and building a sober network. Making sober friends is especially important since they are the ones who will support you and keep you on track when you’re not feeling very motivated. It’s these relationships you should focus on building in the first year.
A new relationship adds uncertainty to your life.
Dating can add unnecessary emotional volatility to your life at a time when there’s already a lot going on. Stress is a major trigger of cravings. Uncertainty and interpersonal conflict are the primary causes of stress in most people’s lives. Every romantic relationship is fun and exciting at the beginning and that excitement will probably be welcome after having spent so much time dealing with the challenges of early recovery. However, many relationships don’t work out, making it fairly likely that your fun new relationship will become a liability. A serious argument or a breakup can destabilize your life just as you’re starting to find balance. Waiting until you’re on solid ground before taking emotional risks is the best decision for your successful long-term recovery.
You may be in danger of repeating old relationship mistakes.
Finally, it’s common for people with substance use issues to have unhealthy relationship patterns. Many people with substance use disorders end up in codependent relationships where one person is the caretaker and the other is mostly dependent. Abusive relationships are also common since childhood abuse is often a factor in addiction and in the formation of adult relationships. It’s also challenging to stay sober if you tend to date people who drink heavily or use drugs. Spending a little time getting to know yourself and your patterns, and working through your issues in therapy, can help you break free of old behaviors and learn to make new, healthier choices.
Looking for Support?
When you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, you have to prioritize recovery above everything else. Sobriety has to come first in order for the rest of your life to fall into place. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, we help men create healthy lives, free from drugs and alcohol. Call us today at 855-202-2138 to learn more about our unique program.